Duke Energy to pay $102.2 million to resolve litigation charges by federal prosecutors
A lawsuit has been filed by federal prosecutors against Duke Energy for violating the federal Clean Water Act. The company was charged for spilling coal ash into the Dan River in North Carolina region.
However, the company said that it has agreed to settle a federal grand jury investigation, which found that the company made nine violations of the Clean Water Act.
Duke Energy will pay more than $102 .2 million in penalties out of which $68.2 million will be paid in fines and restitution and $34 million for community service and mitigation.
The deal with federal investigators also includes a five-year probationary period under a court-appointed monitor. The company said that it is moving to close all 32 coal ash basins in North Carolina. The investigation into Duke began on February 2, 2014, after a pipe collapsed under a coal ash basin at the Dan River Coal.
The pipe failure caused release of 39,000 tons of coal ash, which coated the Dan River for more than 70 miles. After this incident, investigators also looked at other Duke plants around the state and alleged that Duke's illegal dumping had been going back for years.
According to environment activists, although charges faced by Duke Energy for mishandling coal ash waste is an unusual event in the utility industry, Duke's careless approach to store coal ash has been common practice.
Abigail Dillen, vice president for litigation on climate and energy at Earthjustice, said, "They're reaping the reward of that notoriety now. This is an industry that's way out of bounds, and Duke has become the poster child".
The agreement proposed by Duke Energy must be approved by a judge, who is going to determine whether or not it is appropriate. Till now, no date has been set for a hearing on the proposed settlement.
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